Employee attendance problems drag down the profits

Employee attendance is affected by much more than illness

Employee attendance problems are on the rise.  Poor employee attendance is costing American companies millions of dollars every year and the rate has been growing for over ten years.  Dealing with and increasing absenteeism requires companies, and specifically, HR management, to understand the causes, and there are many.  Appreciating the cost of poor employee attendance in relation to the cost of reducing it is necessary when determining how to maintain a working culture that actually encourages employee attendance.

When lack of employee attendance is down, it costs companies a lot

Understanding absenteeism takes a little more than a superficial look at the problem.  Research and survey estimates range between one-third and two-thirds of all lost work days claimed for illness are not genuine.  More than half the days off taken are for reasons other than illness and that pattern involves two out of three employees, on average.  Since 1999, employers are losing the struggle as millions of dollars and millions of working days are lost for reasons other than illness.  That is not only costing business a great deal of money, it is causing business to tighten up on all forgivable absences.

What are the reasons?

Casual absences are caused by a number of reasons, but chief among them are low morale and job boredom.  The prelude of the current trend of high absenteeism began in the early nineties.  Many employers helped to foster a culture of needed voluntary overtime but the abuse of that grew to the point where people simply had to leave work to take care of their own lives.  After working ten or twelve hours, these people were often made to feel guilty for leaving before the work was done.  The resulting abuse of personal time has not been healthy over the long term, as the abuse created a sense of the workplace being in constant crisis.  The strain of that has contributed to low morale, general fatigue, and hence, absences.  In the literature, this condition became known as job burn out and many books were written about it throughout the nineties.

Six things management can do to prevent employee absenteeism

First and foremost, a good work-life balance is an essential ingredient to preventing absenteeism.  If a company’s management abuses an employee’s time, that will ultimately result in employees abusing employer’s time.  Unquestionably, that contributes to the lack of respect for work time and employee attendance abuses.

Second, a poor relationship with a supervisor is the foremost reason people leave jobs and is also a big contributor to absenteeism.  Management should spend more time working on those relationships and expect improvement.  Employees almost always will enjoy team activities that include giving back to the community as a group, and recreational activities where employees can share fun and memories.  Any activity where employees and supervisors can get a better understanding of each other as people and as a team repairs the day-to-day strain.

Third, arduous and difficult work schedules greatly contribute to absenteeism.  Break up the schedule in different ways.  Pay more attention to the work-life balance, and intervene in areas to alleviate boredom and the strain of tedious activities.

Fourth, the time and expense involved in commuting is a problem in many locations and employees will look for excuses not to go through the daily ordeal from time to time.  Pooling and van commuting can help in many situations.

Fifth, pay attention to having a healthy workforce.  Smoking is a time eater both at work and later in absences due to illness problems.  Instituting exercise studio memberships, fresh fruit in the office, and weight loss contests at work are all examples that are known to have a great payback for the company–especially in regaining lost work time due to absence reduction.

Finally, concentrate on building a culture at the company that makes employees want to come to work.  More importantly, make it so employees do not ever want to miss a day.  Good social interaction, freedom and time to converse and become friends coupled with reasonable work break times are all important elements.

Employees can help, too

Employees need to be more positive.  This takes coaching from management.  It will not happen automatically.  More smiles, less whining.  People who spend time commiserating need to be worked with one-on-one, and management needs to be trained in limiting or preventing that behavior.

Time management seminars are a great help to individuals in helping them feel a greater sense of accomplishment, as well as feel their employers really care about their well-being.

Develop a greater sense of the value of time and the need for punctuality.  Understanding that attendance (or lack of it) has a direct affect on their peers will go a long way in removing the problem.

In the end, if an HR manager does not dig deep enough to understand the reasons, the costs, and the methods for avoidance, statistics tell us that problems with employee attendance not only will continue, but the absences will increase.  HR management and HR outsourcing firms that are skilled in time keeping and addressing employee issues are the best resources for help.  The millions of dollars wasted in lost productivity, and the lost productivity caused by the overworked employees who are present everyday, affects each company’s bottom line.